Be alert as you drive to and from work around New Orleans for the next few days. There will be lots of scooters on the road as the Vespa Club of America kicks off its 19th annual AmeriVespa national scooter rally Thursday, June 16, through Sunday, June 19. Rally attendees will stay at the Hilton Riverside New Orleans, and Vespa enthusiasts can still register to attend the entire rally, or buy a one-day pass. Click here for details.
The rally includes a ride to Moto Rouge in Baton Rouge on Thursday, and a touring ride through New Orleans neighborhoods on Friday with a stop at Mid City Lanes Rock ’n’ Bowl. A private party at The Howlin’ Wolf Friday night features a performance by Fleur de Tease burlesque group.
Vendors will show their wares at Generations Hall/The Metro on Saturday and there’s an AmeriVespa Concours competition of vintage, classic, modern, restored and custom Vespas and other scooters. Vespa repair and maintenance demonstrations also are scheduled.
On the final day, vendors will set up at the Contemporary Arts Center, where there also will be slow-ride and Gymkhana events as well as raffles and more.
Attendees have been warned about our bad streets, drinking laws, rules of the road, parking etiquette, etc. through a FAQ section on the AmeriVespa website. The questions and answers are revealing:
Q: Is New Orleans safe to visit in light of the BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico?
A: While our hearts go out to our fellow Louisiana citizens on the Gulf Coast who are suffering from this environmental tragedy New Orleans remains one of the hottest tourist, meeting and convention destinations in the u.s. and remains almost completely unaffected by the oil spill. The city hosted yet another sold-out weekend over the fourth of July with thousands of visitors flocking to New Orleans for the Essence Music Festival, National Education Association annual meeting and Independence Day festivities. We are preparing to welcome some 24,000 guests for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Youth Gathering mid-July. Despite the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, all of New Orleans' hospitality offerings our visitors love so much are unaffected. The seafood from Louisiana is safe and healthy to eat. Our world famous seafood industry is rigorously regulated by various strict agencies before product reaches market, and our renowned chefs ensure that only the highest quality, fresh products are prepared and served. The majority of Louisiana fishing areas (70 percent of the coastline) are not in the spill area or current zones and remain open and bountiful. As a matter of fact, 2,000 pounds of fresh Louisiana seafood is being served at a major cultural food festival in Dijon France by famous French and New Orleans chefs on July 14th. Seafood from New Orleans and Louisiana was recently served aboard Air Force One. Agencies involved in testing include: Louisiana Department of Health and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries along with federal agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and FDA and the EPA. To date all the tests are coming back showing that Louisiana seafood is safe to consume. To learn more about seafood, please visit www.louisianaseafood.com.
Q: I have not visited New Orleans in a few years. What can I expect?
A: Visitors to New Orleans can expect an overall unique and pleasurable experience. Whether you plan to stay for business or leisure, New Orleans offers its guests unbeatable cuisine, music and culture that can only be found in this tremendously hospitable city. Following the Saints Super Bowl victory on February 7,2010, there is energy in the city that is unparalleled, and the celebration isn't slowing down. Super Bowl spirit lead to a successful Carnival season and a record-breaking spring festival line-up. The momentum has continued on into the summer months with successful conventions, fabulous festivals and sold-out weekends. This fall will bring a combination of diverse festivals, inspiring musical performances and meetings and conventions both large and intimate. New Orleans offers an experience for all ages. Families can enjoy the many attractions of the Audubon Institute, college students flock to participate in the Annual Red Dress Run and couples find New Orleans the perfect sanctuary for that romantic escape. With more than 1,000 restaurants to choose from and some of the finest hotels in the country, everyone can expect to enjoy a visit to the Crescent City.
Q: Is New Orleans a safe place for visitors?
A: Yes. No other city in the world manages special events, crowd control and visitor safety as well as New Orleans. New Orleans welcomes more than seven million visitors per year and is world renowned for the safe and successful management of major tourism events such as Mardi Gras, Jazz and Heritage festival, cultural celebrations, professional and college football championship games and special sports events such as the NBA All Star Game. The world's most prominent corporations and associations select New Orleans for conferences and business events ranging from a 10-person corporate board meeting to large association city-wide conventions with tens of thousands of attendees from around the world. More than 800,000 people gathered in New Orleans on February 9,2010 for the Saints Super Bowl Homecoming Victory parade. Mardi Gras typically draws between 800,000 and one million revelers every year, but saw its largest crowds in 25 years for Mardi Gras 2010. The 2010 French Quarter Festival in April 2010 had record attendance of 512,000 people. The 2009 Essence Music Festival had record attendance of 428,000 attendees. New Orleans' popular tourist areas - the French Quarter, Downtown/Central Business District, Uptown, Garden District, Magazine Street, Warehouse/Arts District, Convention Center
Boulevard and Faubourg Marigny - are among the most safe and walkable places for visitors of any city in America. The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) works closely with the business community, elected officials, New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) and District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro to make New Orleans a safe, quality place to live, work and visit. Visitors to our city should expect: - Professional, courteous police offers available to assist visitors - Visible police presence in tourist and convention areas by uniformed officers on foot, in patrol cars and on horseback - Undercover police presence in tourist and convention areas by plain-clothed officers - Strategically placed "sky towers" for major events In addition, the New Orleans CVB informs the top leadership of the NOPD of the complete convention and visitor schedule so they may provide added protection in tourist areas. Crime exists in all major cities. In New Orleans, the vast majority of violent crime is targeted criminal-on criminal drug and retaliation acts which occur outside of popular tourist areas. As with any destination, we recommend that vacationers and convention attendees practice common sense and do not wander into deserted, non-tourist areas of the city.
Q: What are my options should I need medical care while visiting?
A: Hospitals and urgent care facilities include: -East Jefferson After Hours Metairie, 2215 Veterans Boulevard, Metairie, Louisiana 70002, Phone: 504-838-3524, www.ejafterhours.com -East Jefferson After Hours Kenner, 708 West Esplanade, Kenner, Louisiana 70065, 504-461-9660, www.ejafterhours.com -Tourc Infirmary, 1404 Foucher St., 504-897-7011, www.touro.com -Tulane University Hospital and Clinic, 1415 Tulane Ave., 504-988-5800, www.tuhc.com-ochsner Clinic Foundation and Hospital, 1514 Jefferson Highway, 800-874-8984, www.ochsner.org/frontpage/default.htm -C h il d re n' s Hospital, 200 Henry Clay Ave., 504-899-9511, www.chnola.org -ochsner Baptist Medical Center, 2700 Napoleon Ave., 866-624-7637, www.ochsner.org/locations/baptist/ -New Orleans Urgent Care facility, 900 Magazine Street, 504-552-433 www.neworleansurgentcare.com/services.asp
Q: What's the weather like?
A: New Orleans has a sub-tropical temperate climate. It is seasonal, and there is a relatively large temperature swing between summer and winter, but generally little variation on any given day. In other words, hot days tend to begin and end that way, while cold days almost always conclude with a slightly milder evening than the one before.
It rarely freezes in New Orleans proper, but the city does see a few nights a year with temperatures below 32 degrees. It can be much colder in the suburbs north of Lake Pontchartrain.
Summers are famously sweltering, with heat and humidity both in the 90s, and regular afternoon thunderstorms. In fact, from summer to fall, it's usually a good idea to have an umbrella handy, or one of the cheap rain ponchos available at most tourist shops.
While winters are mild compared to temperatures in the rest of the country, high humidity does make the cold air more chilling than in drier climes. Early spring and late fall generally serve up the most comfortable days.
During Mardi Gras, which draws the most visitors in a short period, the weather can range from cold and rainy to baking hot. In part, this depends on the fact that the date of Mardi Gras changes every year, ranging from the beginning of February to the end of March. But both spring and fall in New Orleans are times of very unpredictable weather. At any time of year, it's wise to have an umbrella or raincoat available. Most French Quarter and other tourist shops sell cheap plastic ponchos for the visitor caught unaware by an afternoon storm.
Q: What does "Vieux Carre" mean?
A: On the way into New Orleans on Interstate 10, don't bother looking for the "French Quarter" exit. Exit 235 directs travelers to the "Vieux Carre" (say: VOA Car-Ay), which literally translated means "Old Square" in French and for all practical purposes means French Quarter.
Q: Is the French Quarter really French?
A: The French Quarter is a melting pot of French, Spanish, Cajun and Creole influences that all add up to a very American neighborhood. Born as a French territory in 1718 and raised by the Spanish until the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the French Quarter today reflects and embraces the diversity of the u.s.A.
Q: Can I drive in the French Quarter?
A: French Quarter streets are all very narrow, single lane, one-way streets. Vehicles are allowed in, but be advised that street closings are common and so is gridlock. Bourbon Street is blocked to traffic every night, as is Royal Street every day to give pedestrian revelers and shoppers more room to wander. Some trucks, buses and motor homes may not be able to clear the tight corners, so check ahead for specific details if arriving in a larger vehicle.
Q: Is it always like Mardi Gras in the French Quarter?
A: A little bit of Mardi Gras lasts all year long on Bourbon Street. Beads, boas and general revelry are condoned and even encouraged. Contrary to popular belief, public nudity is not legal anywhere in New Orleans, but that doesn't stop some of the more intoxicated visitors. For a more genteel, civilized French Quarter experience, simply stay off of Bourbon Street. There are another 20 historic, charming and fun streets to explore, after all!
Q: What are the drinking laws in the French Quarter?
A: The city of New Orleans is not required to close its bars at any particular time. This means that a bar may stay open around-the-clock, 24 hours a day, and many in the French Quarter do just that. Not all bars serve all night, many close at 2 a.m., 4 a.m. or 6 a.m., or simply whenever the last customer finally staggers home. Most bars enforce an "18 to enter, 21 to drink" law at the door, although many choose to require all patrons to be 21 to enter. Each particular establishment reserves the right to close whenever they choose, and refuse service to those underage or already intoxicated.
Q: Can I drink on the streets of the French Quarter?
A: As native New Orleanians know, asking for a "go-cup" anywhere else in the country simply produces blank stares. In the French Quarter, getting a go-cup and transferring your drink from glass to plastic to take it outside on the way to the next bar is a ritual and a tradition. Alcohol may be consumed outside of a bar as long as it is in an unbreakable container, but beware - public drunkenness is an easy way to go to jail in New Orleans, so always use moderation!
Q: Is there only Jazz in New Orleans?
A: No. The French Quarter and the adjacent Faubourg Marigny are home to over 100 live music clubs playing all varieties of blues, pop, rock, zydeco, folk and funk. Every night of the week both local and national acts entertain both locals and visitors.
Q: Is all of the food spicy?
A: New Orleans is known for Cajun food, and Cajun food is known for its generous use of cayenne pepper. However, many restaurants will modify the amount of heat in their dishes according to the diner's palate. And with over 200 restaurants in these 78 square-blocks, there truly is something for everyone, from burgers to bagels and from seafood and steaks.
Q: Riding on a scooter the condition of the streets are very important, what are the streets like in New Orleans?
A: Since New Orleans is below sea level and built largely on swamp land the streets here are largely filled with pot holes and patches. While some major thoroughfares are routinely maintained many side streets are are a patchwork of repairs and can be dangerous to someone with small wheels. Keep your eyes open, and look out! Sometimes riding down the street is like your own neighborhood gymkhana.
Q: Will my scooter be safe parked on the street?
A: Like any major city crime exists but the locals just park and use their scoots column lock like anyone else. Of course you can lock up your scoot via cable or whatever you may use as well.
Q: I am riding a vintage scooter, since your below sea level should I think about re-jetting my carb?
A: If your coming in from Denver or another high altitude city you may want to consider re-jetting. Typically here in New Orleans we run stock jetting or up jetting higher with performance add ons. For more info about how vintage scoots are jetted here you can visit www.nolascootcoop.com for more info.
Q: Where do I park my trailer?
A: The Hilton Riverside our host hotel will provide secure parking at the hotel for your truck, car and trailer for $20.00 a night.
Q: Can I park my scooter on the sidewalk?
A: A scooter can park on the sidewalk, and us scooter riders here in New Orleans routinely do. Although it is not technically legal, as long as you don't block the sidewalk or disrupt the flow of traffic it usually won't be ticketed. We tend to keep them tight to buildings or locked up to lamp posts. We will have designated parking for scooters at all the venues. Use reasonable judgment when deciding to park on the sidewalk and remember it is always the discretion of the officer when writing a ticket.
So if you see a meandering scooter on the street, try to be patient (fight the urge to yell out your window at them like you might a local rider) — and be safe out there.